' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Plea from adoptee to first mothers in the closet: Give us a chance

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Plea from adoptee to first mothers in the closet: Give us a chance

While the laws sealing the original birth records of adoptees continue to tumble but with caveats that supposedly "protect" first/birth mothers and fathers who wish to remain anonymous, another factor is at work making sealed records increasingly irrelevant.

Of course I'm talking about DNA testing. It doesn't lie. It finds people. It connects far-reaching relatives. We've written before addressing birth mothers in the closet, urging them to deal with the reality of their lives: they had a child, and that child may be looking for them, and DNA may find them, despite how deeply that adopted-out child was buried. In truth, I can only drum up so much sympathy for the supposed plight of the anonymous  birth/first mothers, because honesty and truth are on the side of the adoptee. Everyone deserves to know where they came from. I will go on repeating this until I take my last breath: Everyone deserves to know where they came from.

Without reservations. Even if the truth isn't pretty. Even if it is brutal. Even if someone is going to be embarrassed she kept this secret for decades. Then the difficulty is tied up just as much with what the secret is (a child!), but in the fact that the secret was kept from kin and kith for years. Yet since I believe that most people have generous hearts, once they get over the shock of learning about the missing child, they will understand why a terrified woman, shamed at the time of birth, kept the secret. But I write as a woman who relinquished a child, found her on 1981 when she was fifteen, and had a lengthy relationship with her until her death a decade ago. Closeted mothers need to hear from an adoptee herself, and so today I am turning over the blog to an adoptee who was moved to write directly to women who are fearful of being found by their children:

Dear First Mothers,

I am a 53-year-old female adoptee from Florida. [FMF: All adoptee birth records are sealed in FL.]

I was adopted in 1964 during what has been called the Baby Scoop Era. Many of us born in that time come from states with closed birth and adoption records, which means we don't have access to our original Birth Certificate, even today. 

There is nothing easy about searching for one's original parents, or being adopted, or making contact with our original first mother. Emotionally, all of it is difficult. 

If you are a birth mom from that era chances are--if your child is searching for his or her genetic roots--they will take a DNA test. If anyone in your family has also supplied a DNA sample--and it doesn't have to be someone close to you--your child will find you. Closed records will no longer protect you. 

I implore you to be open to contact. Most of us long to know about our roots, and we are not out to hurt our first parents nor do we "want money or kidneys" from them. For better or worse, we had parents. Most of us are not looking for mommies or daddies. We simply want to know, Where do we come from? We've wondered all our lives. Who do we look like? Are our personalities similar? Our likes? Hobbies? Professions? Do we have siblings? First cousins? Aunts or Uncles? Most importantly, We NEED updated medical information, not only from you, but also the father. 

I know a lot of first mothers from this era have not told their current family about the child they placed for adoption. But with DNA testing, it is possible that you will have no final control about whether or not this will come out. Take matters in your own hands, and tell the people it most directly affects now before they get that surprise contact letter, phone call, email or Facebook message. Yes, they probably will be shocked, but be aware that they will handle the news better if it comes from you, rather than your relinquished child who suddenly appears, or through a relative who has been contacted. Remember that we live in such a different time now, and it is unlikely that anyone will judge you as they did when you were a teenager way back when. 

I am writing this letter to First Mother Forum to ask the first mothers who find it to be brave, and give us, your grown relinquished children, a chance to be in your lives. Just like any other relationship, it may take off and you become friends, or maybe it won't. But you won't know unless you give us a chance to make contact. 

I hope from the bottom of my heart if you are contacted you will remember reading this, and give your child a chance.--Susan
Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age: An Anthology
Anthology edited by Laura Dennis
“Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, an Anthology” cuts 
through the feel-good veneer and exposes very stark realities faced
by those affected by adoption. Pointed questions following each article
encourage reader to explore their attitudes and challenge cultural
myths surrounding this issue. It is another positive step in a
long-overdue human rights revolution in the adoption community.
The post that led to this one: 

When a stranger writes to a first/birth mother asking for adoptee contact



  1. Susan writes that adoptees don't "want money or kidneys." I am writing this only for a bit of gallows humor. I was a shamed, severely abused sixth grader when, through psychiatric intervention, including drugs and surgery, I came away from the experience of being robbed of my child thinking I'd suffered a severe kidney infection during which I became delirious resulting in my lack of memory of things. My child had been placed with a family related to the "situation." My child was told who I was while I staggered through life brain injured and lied to AND judged for not wanting a relationship with the child I had been brainwashed, drugged and surgically altered into "forgetting." In my late fifties, as a result of sustained at home PT for a 2009 concussion, I remembered. I've reached out. I've been not only rejected by threatened by the other family. The root of all problems stemming from adoption start in gender bias and the pernicious double standard. I believe that is what needs to be stated always. Context matters.

    1. Debra--You story is one of the worst we have come across in all our years involved in adoption. It is a heart-breaking one and that you are still standing is a tribute to your resilience. God bless you!

    2. Thank you. And I credit Ann Fessler's book "The Girls Who Went Away" for mentioning "kidney infections" as code for pregnancy. The first time I asked a family member flat out if I'd had a baby, I was told that I had been diagnosed with a kidney infection but what I had might have been something else. I didn't make the kidney infection connection for decades. Truly, I believe my family and many families were under the thumbs of priests, ministers and social workers.

  2. I don't know any first mother who thought they were "protected" by closed records.

    1. Closed records were clearly there to protect adoptive parents, so that no pesky mother of origin could interrupt the denial.

  3. That is a kind and sensible letter from an adoptee, and I hope it helps some reluctant mother to reach out to her child. Now that we have DNA testing on a large scale, nobody is "protected" from the truth.

    Although weird prejudices about "letting sleeping dogs lie" go deep. On another list that has nothing to do with adoption, a person asked about a relative who came up on his DNA search who did not fit his previous genealogy records searches. These people were probably related through a great-grandparent, long dead. Some people actually advised not to contact the person for fear of upsetting him that his great-grandpa was not who he thought! My advice was "go for it", after so many years who cares, and some adoptees also chimed in about adoptees searching and you never know.

  4. I would highly recommend the book mentioned by Debra "The Girls who went away." I found it just when I needed it. I am an adoptee who was first rejected by my birth mother 10 years ago when I tried to reunite. This book gave me a good understanding and much empathy for the birth mother experience. It helped me get over my anger and feel more sympathetic to what it must have been like. I am happy to report that 10 years later I am now reunited with my birth family thanks to DNA testing. I also found my birth father this way with the help of someone with some genealogy experience. My birth mother continues to struggle with the trauma that resulted from giving me up - at least that's my perception as she doesn't talk about it at all. I think eventually human rights will triumph and records will be open. It is happening-albeit too slowly for many of us.

  5. My hope is that this letter, and others like it, could help some birth mothers in hiding, see things a different way - and not let fear be the overriding emotion, among all the other conflicting emotions they may have. I can't imagine how sad are the birth mothers, hoping they will never be found - and to what purpose? Men are always being confronted with children they fathered years ago, "maybe" unknowingly, and everyone is happy for their reunion! It should be the same for women also. It says a lot about how women are thought of and treated, the entire episode is thought of only with shame and low self esteem. When actually there were 2 parties involved in bringing about the pregnancy. Where's the shame for the man?

    The reality is, reunion - when and if it comes, and DNA makes it more likely of course - can bring some peace of mind, to child and to mother. Isn't that the most important thing, in the end? If the child's upbringing was not good, isn't it still best to know, and do what you can today to help if possible? Why continue to be in the position of a woman who is forced by circumstances, to keep such a secret? As they say, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. It seems so appropriate in a situation like this.

    I feel so sorry for Lorraine's friend, who died without resolving this issue. She gave herself a scarlet letter which she didn't deserve to bear. What a waste and so much unnecessary sadness. And I was reading on some blog or website, maybe a year ago, 2 birth mothers saying they don't want birth certificates opened ever, they don't want to be found! I feel very sorry for them, they are fearful without reasonable thought. The truth sometimes is not exactly equal to what your worst fears. I found that out through reunion. I didn't exactly hide, but didn't make any effort to contact my children - hoping they would look for me, when the time came that it felt OK for them to do so.

    Adoptees, don't give up - your mother may be somewhat like me - Not against reunion, but just in a state of paralysis or confused. Of course some are not, I hope they will change, if not. They are hurting themselves, and their own sense of self-worth - and all for nothing, in my opinion.

    Hoping 2018 will bring many more DNA matches, reunions and more birth mothers not being scared - Mothers,there's nothing to be scared of, and perhaps some joy and comfort can be yours. No guarantee, but it's worth investigating.

  6. Many of us first mothers have not only given our lost daughters a chance, but we searched for them, found them,and did everything humanely possible to love them and make amends. For some of us, myself included, nothing was ever enough and personally I was abused. My child actually told me that I owed her an enormous debt for having chosen "adoption" back in the 60's despite my feeling that I did the best I could at the time.

  7. The letter is so true! My birth mother is in hiding.....I've met my first cousins and her sister, my Aunt. My mother continues to be in hiding asking them not to introduce me to any other family members....she has never told her husband (who is probably my father) or my 4 siblings she had after me.

    My DNA is on 3 different sites....and my hope is one day a sibling or another 1st cousin tests.....although, ultimately I'd love my mother to tell those close to her...HER story. Her side. Her feelings. What she went through. What the time was like......I am respecting her wishes not to introduce myself to her children and it would be easy, but if none of them test and when the day comes I know she is no longer here or unable to communicate I will go forward and then too it would be sad for me not for her to share her story with those she loves.



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